Free catechism flash cards

Concordia Publishing House is offering free flash cards and memory cards to help in learning Luther’s Small Catechism.  You can download them here.  Thanks, CPH, for making available such a helpful resource!

HT:  Mary Moerbe

Confessions of an ex-liberal theologian

Thomas C. Oden is a prominent theologian who formerly was a major practitioner of liberal, modernist theology.  But then, after reading the Church Fathers, he did an about face, turning to orthodox, historical Christianity.  He tells his story in A Change of Heart:  A Personal and Theological Memoir.

This is the most stimulating and illuminating book that I have read in a long time, giving an inside look at the construction of liberal theology, explaining what happened to mainstream Protestantism, and describing in novelistic detail how a prominent scholar came back to an authentic Christian faith.

Reading this book, published a couple of years ago, was an especially strange experience for me because Oden’s background and mine are so similar!  Though he is 20 years older than I am, our experiences have been so similar or at least parallel that reading about them is like reading about my own life.  [Read more…]

Pope says most married people aren’t really married

Roman Catholicism famously doesn’t believe in divorce.  But it does believe in annulments, a procedure which determines that for one reason or another–immaturity, not knowing what they are getting into, etc.–a valid marriage never took place.

The implication is that many couples who had a church wedding and a marriage license, who have had children together, and who have lived their whole lives together are not really married.  I suppose this comes out if the couple wants to break up the marriage and, if they are Catholic, receive an annulment, but even if they stay together, they can never really know if they are married.

I would say that, from a Lutheran perspective,  this is another example of Roman Catholicism’s being not nearly sacramental enough.  Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament, but the objective sacrament doesn’t make the marriage, just the subjective experience of long ago when they first became married.  Similarly, Catholics can’t really know if they have been saved, even though they have been baptized, received Holy Communion, etc.

This is also an example of legalism in religion, in which laws that are too difficult to fulfill are, in practice, weakened by creating technicalities and loopholes that make it easier to accomplish while defeating the whole purpose of the original law.  (If you don’t believe in divorce because marriage is a sacrament and thus permanent, don’t have annulments either!  These are just divorces by another name, even though they “save the appearances” of permanent marriage by declaring that a marriage never happened, though at the expense of your whole sacramental theology.)

Anyway, the Pope last week said that, because of the lack of commitment, “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null.”  His handlers later edited the original transcript to change “the great majority” to “some,” but still. . . .If so many people who have gotten married are really just living together, committing fornication and their children illegitimate (to use other Catholic categories), then the line between wedlock and cohabitation is fatally blurred.  If marriage, however, is a VOCATION, a calling from God, it’s a different story. [Read more…]

Orthodox Church will have its “Vatican II”

The “Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church” will be held in Crete, June 16-27.  The Council, which will be attended by the leaders of all of the world’s 14 Orthodox bodies (though two are threatening boycott),  is being described as the Orthodox equivalent of “Vatican II.”  The issues to be taken up will reportedly include ecumenical relations, how to handle marriage to someone who is not Orthodox, problems of ethnic identity, achieving greater unity, and dealing with various contemporary questions.  After the jump, a story from a Catholic site with an interview of a key Orthodox player.

Orthodox readers, can you tell us more about this?  This wouldn’t have the authority of the early church councils, would it?, since it isn’t “ecumenical.”  But how would this fit in with its “conciliar” theology?  Do you expect the council to take up issues that are roiling the Western churches, such as homosexuality, gender issues, etc.?  Is the council likely to “modernize” Orthodoxy, as Vatican II did to Roman Catholicism?

UPDATE:  Five church bodies are refusing to come, including the biggest one, the Russian Orthodox Church.  So nearly half of the world’s Orthodox churches representing a majority of Orthodox Christians won’t be there.  For a good discussion of this disunity, including the big issue of the conflict between Russia and Constantinople for leadership in Orthodoxy, go here.  (HT:  Joe & McCain)

UPDATE: The Council will go on as planned, despite the absence of the Russians.  The Serbian church decided to attend after all, so only four will be absent.

[Read more…]

Summer Christians & Winter Christians

Some Christians feel closer to God when they are happy (and if they aren’t, they often feel that there is something wrong with them spiritually).  Other Christians feel closer to God when they are hurting or struggling.  Those with the sunnier religious experience have been called “Summer Christians.”  Those with the darker experiences of God have been called “Winter Christians.”

This distinction may have some affinity with Luther’s “theology of glory” vs. “the theology of the cross,” but it seems to be more a matter of temperament.  But in today’s climate, “Winter Christians” may well feel themselves written out of the church.  After the jump, some links to the subject, including a study of how today’s pop Christian music is nearly always oriented to Summer Christians, while Christian music of the past deals with darker, more wintry themes. [Read more…]

What does it mean to be “blessed”?

“This is a real blessing.”  “I have been so blessed.”  “Count your blessings.”  “God bless you!”  “The Lord bless you and keep you. . .”  The word blessing expresses an important concept in Christian spirituality.  But what, exactly, does it mean?

My daughter, Mary Moerbe, has written a book on the subject, entitled Blessed:  God’s Gift of Love, drawing on the doctoral research of CPH editor Christopher Mitchell.

Read it.  You will find it a real blessing.  (sorry)

In the meantime, before you read the book and get all the answers, how would you describe what it means to be “blessed”?  The Bible talks about God blessing us, but it also says that we should “bless the Lord.”  How do we do that?  What does it mean when a pastor blesses us?

[Read more…]


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